Intersection Safety


According to 2005 fatality figures by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 42,636 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, and approximately 3 million people were injured. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 43% of motor vehicle crashes occur at intersections or are "intersection-related." This figure includes crashes resulting from any crossing conflicts, including ramp merging areas, driveways, red light running, and divided median crossovers. Given the very small percentage of surface mileage that intersections represent in the 3.94 million miles of roads and streets in the United States, it is clear that the inherent design and operational function of intersections present very high opportunities for vehicle conflicts leading to crashes.

Intersection conflicts and crashes pose dangers to both vehicle occupants and pedestrians. In crashes at intersections vehicle occupants are vulnerable to severe injury and death because the
majority of the collisions involve side impacts into one of the vehicles. Side impacts have higher rates of deaths and serious injuries because there is comparatively little vehicle protective structure to safeguard occupants in the struck vehicle.

Addressing intersection-related crashes in a comprehensive and focused way is a highly complex task. Intersections range in type all the way from complicated expressway interchanges, which attempt to control vehicle entry and departure movements through the use of various geometric design and traffic engineering strategies, down to simple, rural right-angle intersections often controlled by only stop or yield signs. In many cases there are no traffic control devices of any kind.


In 2003, more than 1.9 million intersection crashes occurred throughout the nation. Of those, red light running crashes accounted for 219,000 crashes, 181,000 injuries and approximately 1,000 deaths. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IIHS, and Federal Highway Administration, FHWA, 2004)

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of all pedestrian injuries and twenty-one percent (21%) of fatal injuries to pedestrians occur in collisions with motor vehicles at intersections. (IIHS, 2005)

In 2004, there were more than 9,117 fatal "intersection" or "intersection-related" crashes nationwide. This accounts for approximately one of every five fatal crashes on our roads. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, 2005)

In urban areas, nearly 50% of all crashes occur at intersections. (FHWA, 2005)

An overwhelming three-fourths (78%) of the American public believe more attention should be paid to making dangerous intersections safer for drivers. An even higher number, 85%, think they need to be made safer for pedestrians. (Louis Harris Poll, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, 2001, 1999)

According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the American Trauma Society, 63% of Americans see someone running a red light at least a few times a week and, at most, once a day. One in three Americans knows someone who has been injured or killed by a red-light runner. (1998)

Far fewer crashes occur at intersections with roundabouts than at intersections with signals or stop signs. A study conducted in Maine of 24 intersections before and after the construction of roundabouts showed a 39% overall decrease in crashes and a 76% decrease in injury producing crashes. Collisions involving fatal or incapacitating injuries fell by almost 90%. (IIHS, 2000)

Older pedestrians are particularly at risk for injury or death at intersections. Thirty-six percent (34%) of pedestrian deaths among people age 65 and older in 2003 occurred at intersections. Many intersections permit pedestrian crossing, yet have signals timed to provide for the maximum movement of vehicles, not pedestrian traffic. (NHTSA, 2004)

Atlanta, Miami and Tampa are the three most dangerous cities for pedestrians. In these cities 59% of pedestrian fatalities occurred while the pedestrian was trying to cross in the middle of the street because no crosswalk was available. Lack of crosswalks is a major factor in making these cities such a dangerous place for walkers. (American Demographics, November 2000)

Over 40% of all pedestrian fatalities occur at intersections with no crosswalk. (NHTSA, 2004)

On average, a pedestrian is killed every 111 minutes in the U.S. (NHTSA, 2004)

August 2005

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